A woman with a blindfold on lies against a red leather couch enjoying her S&M.

Editor’s note: The final 50 Shades of Grey movie is now available On Demand. (I know this because my wife has watched it twice already.) That means, blessedly, this pop-culture phenomenon is now over. Three years ago, I tried to cover the first movie from a consumer perspective – and got more abuse than Elena Lincoln…

I’M A GOOD REPORTER but a lousy journalist. I know how to write, but I have no clue what people want to read.

It’s taken me a long time to admit that. I owe this sudden clarity to 50 Shades of Grey – both the book (which I haven’t read) and the movie (which I won’t watch).

I’m the editor of a year-old personal finance website. Part of my job is to assign stories that interest and educate without offending. I suck at that last part.

With the Valentine’s Day debut of the 50 Shades movie approaching, I assigned a three-part series on how much it would cost to buy all the sex toys Christian Grey uses on Anastasia Steele.

Meghan Stewart, one of the most intense writers I’ve ever known, dove into the research. Kelsey Bell, one of the most talented young graphic artists I’ve ever met, struggled to illustrate Meghan’s research without getting too, well, graphic.

It was too way much for my bosses, who politely told me I had seriously misjudged our readership.

They were quite cool about it, even letting me shop the package to other media outlets so Meghan and Kelsey’s efforts wouldn’t go to waste. I offered it to another personal finance website I once edited, and whose owner is kinky and profane and awesome. But he told me this was “too racy” for his readers.

So I contacted the editors at two alternative weeklies – which once wrote about anal bleaching. They told me the stories were too “salacious” for them.

Since I respect these journalists’ news judgment much more than my own, I had to admit I’m clueless about how the rest of the world thinks. That’s a profound flaw in a journalist.

I don’t mind being a failure myself, and while it stings to disappoint my bosses, it hurts like hell to fail Meghan and Kelsey. With nowhere else to go, I’m posting their fine work on my own website.

Read the entire series by clicking the images below.


Read the first installment in the series


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